I’ve been in a fantasy creature mood, so here are some shy forest folk working on their banana orchard.
I wanted to try out a slightly different art style for fun, so I aimed for a more sketchy and dark vibe than I usually do and drew a “little” hatchling roc. Rocs are giant mythical predator birds, and I am a fan. It really needs a sacrificial elephant for scale, but I didn’t think of that till it was finished. Still, it was fun, and I think it turned out pretty cute and appropriately fierce.
The Hour of Lead
After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –
– Emily Dickinson
That about sums up the last several years for me.
I apparently started the first part of this post in 2021, about a year after entirely breaking down in late 2020, breaking up with one of my partners, and giving up on basically every creative pursuit that matters to me. I pretty much shut down everything except essential life support in order to get through an extremely turbulent time. It cost a lot, and I wish I’d made different choices.
It’s over, now. I’m incredibly blessed to find that some of the people who cared about me then, still care about me now, including the partner who I thought I had lost.
I’m waking this blog up, and I’ll be picking up my fiction writing again as I get back in practice.
Autumn Hit Our Yard Like a Truck
The Plague Chicken
Sometimes you just have to go full morbid to cope with living through a worldwide natural disaster that just won’t end. Here’s my little friend, the Plague Chicken. She started out as a mostly normal sketch of one of my turken chicks, but rapidly turned into a disturbing monster. (More than the usual for those pocket velociraptors, anyway.)
She’s surrounded by herbs and flowers that were used during the black plague to ward off dangerous miasmas, and she’s absolutely done with everyone’s shit. Wear your masks, everyone!
Just Keep Swimming
I spent most of election day stress-organizing my office, which was at least somewhat productive. I also had to replace all the covers on all the electrical wires, because my rabbit is a bully who likes to break my stuff. (RIP my cute pink Razer mouse.) Then I propagated and repotted some of my cooler carnivorous houseplants, had a few breakdowns while doomscrolling, and ate donuts for dinner. The donuts and stress have both continued into Thursday so far, because 2020 is an inescapable nightmare in pretty much every way and I’ll cope however I can.
I’m once again fighting with Facebook over some petty nonsense that apparently lead them to quietly revoke my ability to boost posts on my business page. Of course, they’ve also throttled the natural views that any page can get for any given post down to almost nothing, so that’s cool. I just love that there are absolutely no competitors for the massive position of power they’ve carved out for themselves in society. Unfettered capitalism sure is working out great!
But anyway, I gave Inktober a shot this year, and only lasted three days before I ran out of steam. That’s pretty much business as usual this year, but I did enjoy drawing these cute little koi on day one, so here they are in all their fishy glory.
Lies. Not Fake News, not Alternative Facts.
First of all, the president of the United States is trying to pull off a coup. He is trying to cheat his way to another term by throwing out the legal and legitimate votes against him. He said that was what he planned to do. He said he would try. He is now doing exactly what he said he would do. He has consistently shown all of us what kind of person he is, and I have believed him from the start. I also believed his victims when they told us what he was. It is obvious. It is clear. It is not ambiguous. It isn’t debatable. If you disagree, you’re either mistaken or lying. This is not a matter of opinion.
Your friends and family who support him are bad people. If you supported him, you’re a bad person. You don’t have to be. You could stop. You could stop right this minute, and I am begging you to do so.
But I won’t sit around waiting for that, because no decent person currently has time to wait for you to grow a conscience.
I am a gentle person. I am a kind person. I hate making people angry. I hate making anyone feel bad. I know the sting and suffering of living with shame, and I do not wish it on anyone lightly.
If you enabled this, then you should be ashamed. It should eat at you. If you make it easier for your friends and family to enable this, then you share their shame. It should not be comfortable to enable an abuser to hurt people. It should be humiliating and isolating. If your father or uncle or neighbor can look you in the eye and say he supports the man who is currently clinging tooth and nail to the power to further harm all of us, then something has gone badly wrong between you.
Do not entertain any discussion of alternative facts. They are lies. Fake news is propaganda. Refusing to count all the legitimate votes in an election is a coup. The republican party stands in support of fascism today. That is reality. That is true.
Your vote is an ethical matter. If you support people who do harm, then you do harm. If you vote against marriage equality, then you act to steal the security and dignity of your neighbors. If you vote to end safe and legal abortion, then you are responsible for the excruciating deaths of living people. If you vote against the total reform of our policing and justice systems, then you are there when a cop murders a black woman in her own home or a black teenager is funneled into prison to be used as slave labor.
It is not always completely clear which way our individual political choices may take us, but it is not so murky as to be impossible or pointless to navigate. Doing the right thing is harder than remaining deliberately ignorant, but it is our responsibility as human beings living in a society to try. Any human being. Any society. No, we didn’t sign up for this. It doesn’t matter.
My Heart Broke This Morning
But I put it back together, again.
A few months and several decades ago, I drove for an hour and picked up three adorable but surly hens, right before the stay at home orders came down in my state. I’ve really enjoyed tending them and trying to win their affections, but last week I sat in a vet’s office, wearing my prettiest flowered mask, and cried my heart out as they took the sweetest of them away to be put to sleep.
Pros of wearing a mask while grieving: Catches the snot.
Cons of wearing a mask while grieving: Catches the snot and stores it directly against your face.
She was very sick. It was either very bad luck or very good luck, depending on how you look at it. All the rest of our chickens, including her four little chicks that she hatched out herself and adored so much, were fine. No one else caught the common, contagious, but not usually deadly disease. Just Erik the hen, who was still tenderly feeding her chicks even after she began to struggle with swallowing her own food. But there’s no treatment, and she couldn’t breathe anymore, in spite of one rather desperate surgical attempt to save her, so we had to do the kindest thing.
My dad and my sister are fighting over our aging family cats. My dad got angry and said some of the crueler things he’s ever said to me because I tried to reason with him on my sister’s behalf. He’s the only parent I have left, since my mother drifted away from reality years ago and never particularly liked me in it anyway. I was willing to forgive my dad a lot because he still kinda loved me, in his absent-minded way, but the reality is that I’ve always been expendable to both of them when it comes right down to it. I’ve always known that, so it doesn’t hurt as much as it probably should to be reminded of it again. It doesn’t help, either.
My single remaining grandparent is losing her memory and her hearing. I called to check in on her, but she couldn’t hear anything I said unless I just shouted a yes or no answer into the phone. She asked me five or six times when I was coming to visit next. She still doesn’t know when I’m coming to see her next, and neither do I.
My siblings are all beautiful, amazing people who are living their lives in different places, and I miss them terribly, but I don’t know when I’ll see them again either.
I haven’t seen my boyfriend in months, and the vague sense that he still doesn’t really understand why has been slowly making me doubt the seriousness and reality of what’s going on in the world even though I can see it clearly every day. I don’t know how to bridge gaps like that in judgment and perception. Maybe that difference in assessment wouldn’t bother a more confident person than myself, but I am not that person.
This year, this pandemic, and this political climate have felt like a sandblaster aimed straight at all the softer parts of me. The parts of me that want to build and make and love and tend are all aching and damaged and scared.
All my energy has been going into staying stable. I thought that was for the best, and that it was probably all I could really offer to my partners and family and friends. Just hang on with a grim grip, but keep a real smile on my face when I can, because I’m still genuinely so lucky to have everything and everyone that I do. Prep for the next waves of disaster as they loom on the horizon, but don’t have more panic attacks than are really reasonable for the current immediate circumstances. Try to keep up daily walks with my cohabitating partner and dogs, and to keep watering the garden even as the sudden and intense heat of our brief summer here tries to burn away all the green and tender things I’ve planted. Try to keep looking and moving forward, but not too far, or I’ll surely run into something hard or sharp in all this murk.
I woke up early this morning from such a sweet and comfortable dream, after months of non-stop stress dreams and nightmares. Before I was even fully conscious, my mind started reminding me of all the reasons why that dream wasn’t real and wasn’t even possible. It wasn’t anything fantastical, just a very pleasant dream about a person I admire, but my waking mind wasn’t having it. You don’t deserve that, it said. You’re not wanted, it said. Don’t be ridiculous, it said.
It was just a really nice dream, and it broke my heart to wake up and realize how hard I’m always working, even when I’m half asleep, to avoid ever reaching for something people might say I don’t deserve or going where I might not be wanted. I’ve been trying so hard not to ever make anyone’s day even fractionally worse that my art and my writing and my ability to take risks have all shriveled up, and absolutely no one is the better for it.
What a fucking waste.
My heart is pretty prone to this kind of breakage. It’s soft. I’m putting it back together and trying to make it stronger but not harder. Maybe a little more structurally sound, and more resistant to the idea that the only thing I have to offer the world is all the smallness I can muster.
Slogging Through My Worst Nightmare
I generally lucid dream. Even things that should be horrible nightmares usually aren’t much more than stressful for me, because I know that I’m dreaming and have some control. It doesn’t make being chased by zombies particularly fun, but it does take the edge off. There’s only one nightmare that I regularly have where I don’t know that I’m dreaming. I inevitably wake up from it tense and ready to run or fight, usually with a headache from clenching my jaw that lasts all day. I’ve been having it since I was a teenager.
The dream is pretty simple: A natural disaster of some sort has occurred, or is about to, and I can’t get my family to safety. We’re not blocked by a lava flow or anything. They just won’t listen. It’s worse than herding cats. I get my younger siblings into the car so we can drive away, and discover that my dad has wandered back into the house to look for a book or something. I physically drag him back out and my siblings have gone off on their own random side quests. I scream that there’s danger coming and they just don’t seem to understand, or they don’t believe me. Now that I’m an adult, my partners get added to the mix, always with the same results.
I usually have to spend some time in these dreams searching for and packing up supplies, only to discover that my loved ones have all scattered like confused chickens and I have to round them up again. It never works. We never get to a safe place. No one ever listens or acknowledges the danger that I can clearly see coming our way.
I am very literally living through my worst nightmare right now. This pandemic is a worldwide natural disaster, and people I love are not taking it seriously. My aunt flew home from a visit with my cousin and walked right into the house with my elderly grandmother after I repeatedly told her she needed to get a hotel room and quarantine for two weeks after going through several airports. My dad wouldn’t buy a chest freezer when I told him that he should be prepared to stock up on groceries for the family because he didn’t think there would be a stay at home order in their area. The order came about a week later. My grandmother is losing her memory and keeps going out on little errands. She won’t wear her mask. My dad won’t take her keys away. My siblings are adults now and are being much more realistic than their dream counterparts, but two of them work in essential businesses, so they’re still at risk.
Everywhere I look, folks seem to be finding their own level of “careful” and most of it falls far far short of the level that is recommended by experts. People I trusted seem to be bizarrely comfortable risking the lives of their friends and loved ones in order to not be bored or lonely. People whose intelligence I respected are of the opinion that this deadly and highly contagious virus probably won’t get them because… Well, just because.
I haven’t seen one of my two partners in months, and I don’t know when it will be safe to see him again. I haven’t seen my family since Christmas, and I don’t know when I’ll see any of them again. Every time someone in my local community group on Facebook proudly proclaims that they won’t wear a mask to the grocery store because they’re not a sheep, I see those hypothetical dates being pushed further away.
Pretty much the only way to keep all this off my mind is to focus as much as possible on other things. It’s best when I’m working hard in the garden, but I recently had a weird episode that drove me inside on a beautiful day. It was truly ridiculous.
I got scared of the wind. The weather was pleasant but windy, and I had the overwhelming sense that the wind itself was dangerous. The world felt dreamlike and unreal and I couldn’t keep my thoughts together. I couldn’t get anything done, and I wound up crying on my front steps because I didn’t want to go inside, but I couldn’t handle being out there. Clearly, spending months in my worst nightmare with no end in sight, even under pretty much the best possible conditions, is not doing wonders for my mental health.
There’s no particular point to this post, really. Except, perhaps, to beg you to wear your mask in the grocery store so that my only remaining grandparent is a little bit less likely to die before I get to see her again.